Wa Ethnic Minority

Wa Ethnic Minority is an ancient ethnic group living in the southwest border of China. The main residential area is located between Lancang River and Salween River, and the stretch zone of the south section of Nujiang mountain range. Since the founding of the people’s Republic of China, Wa has stepped into a socialist society from the end of the primitive society, from slash and burn cultivation to ditch and canal building, and scientifically farming. It has experienced major changes in productivity and production relations, rapid social and economic development, and people’s living standards have improved year by year.

History of Wa Ethnic Minority in Yunnan

Wa Ethnic Minority has a long history, but there are not many historical records. There are different legends about the origin of Wa nationality. Among many legends, the legend of “Si Gang Li(司岗里)” is the most common. After their ancestors came out of “Sigangli”, they moved from south to north to Dianchi Lake and Erhai Lake. Later, they were defeated and moved to live in Lancang River and Salween River, so they also called themselves children of the two rivers. Most of the ethnological researchers in China believe that the Wa nationality is an indigenous or earliest inhabitant in the south of Yunnan Province and a member of the ancient “Pu(濮)” people. In 1962, the people’s government called it “Wa Ethnic Minority” according to the wishes of its own people.

Distribution of Wa Ethnic Minority in Yunnan

Wa Ethnic Minority are mainly distributed in Ximeng, Cangyuan, Menglian, Gengma, Lancang, Shuangjiang, zhenkang, Yongde, Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, Tengchong, Changning, Jingdong, Pu’er and other counties in Yunnan Province.

Wa Autonomous Counties in Yunnan

Wa Ethnic Towns in Yunnan

Protection Area of Wa Ethnic Culture

Religion of Wa Ethnic Minority

In the past, the Wa nationality believed in many gods and had a wide range of primitive religious beliefs, especially the Wa Nationality in Ximeng. This is mainly because in a long period of history, the Wa People’s productivity is extremely low, who can’t explain the natural phenomena scientifically, and can’t get rid of the disasters brought by nature and diseases, so they have a fear.

Wa people believe in the primitive religion that all things have spirits. They believe that all creatures have souls and ghosts. Gods are good and kind, while ghosts are evil and vicious. They should sacrifice gods when they do things, and call souls when people have diseases and disasters. In the long-term struggle with the natural environment, the Wa people have accumulated knowledge about astronomy, geography, meteorology and agricultural planting. They are good at using the Ganzhi chronology as the basis for naming, sacrificing, traveling and handling affairs. Although there is no writing, this method has been passed down among the Wa people for generations.

Ethnic Culture of Wa Ethnic Minority


The villages of Wa people are mostly built on the hillside or on the top of the hill. The houses are built according to the mountain, regardless of the direction, from high to low. The scale of a village is in the range of hundreds of large households and dozens of small households. In terms of materials, there are bamboo & wood structure and earth & wood structure. In terms of architectural style, there are mainly two kinds of buildings: “ ” and “four wall building”. The Wa people in Cangyuan, Ximeng, Menglian, Lancang and Shuangjiang mainly adopt bamboo and wood structure, generally divided into two floors; the upper one is for people and the lower one for livestock or stacking farm tools and sundries. Wa people have the habit of helping each other when building houses, which can be done within one day.


Wa people mainly eat rice, and also small red rice, corn and beans. The meat is mainly domestic animals, including cattle, chickens, pigs, etc., and wild boar, muntjac, nine section civet, pheasant, birds, etc. hunted during the agricultural leisure time. There are many kinds of vegetables, including bamboo shoots, green vegetables, cucumbers, winter melons, peppers and wild vegetables. Wa People’s diet is relatively simple, and they generally eat soft rice. They usually eat two or three meals a day. In the past, Wa people used to grab food with their hands when eating, but now they use chopsticks and spoons. Wa people like to drink. They boil small red rice and mix it with wine medicine for fermentation. After about half a month, they put it in a bamboo tube and mix it with cold water to make wine. Wa people have the saying that “no wine, no ceremony, no appointment”. Wa people also like to drink bitter tea, smoke grass and chew betel nuts.


The costumes of Wa people vary from place to place. The traditional men’s clothing of Wa Nationality in Ximeng is a collarless jacket with short and fat trousers, and the head is wrapped with black or red cloth. The neck of young men is mostly decorated with bamboo rings or rattan rings. Women wear short black collarless clothes, straight tube skirt, with silver hoop or band hoop on the head; silver collar and multiple strings of beads as chest ornaments, a number of rattan rings on the waist and neck, and like to wear a number of silver bracelets and large earrings. Cangyuan Wa’s men’s clothing is a round necked shirt with short and big trousers, and the head is wrapped with black or red cloth. The beauty of women is long hair. They wear earrings and collars made of silver or aluminum and short clothes with narrow sleeves and round necks. They have rows of silver bubbles on the chest and wear long straight skirts with various patterns. The costumes of the Wa Nationality in Yongde and Zhenkang are basically the same as those of the Han nationality.


Wa literature belongs to folk oral literature, including myths, legends, stories, fairy tales, fables, proverbs and so on. Through various literary styles, Wa people show their aesthetic, moral, religious beliefs and customs. Most of the Wa’s paintings and sculptures are closely related to the Wa’s myths, legends and religious beliefs. The ethnic group of Cangyuan cliff painting is generally considered to be Wa nationality. The composition is simple, and the figures and animal figures are various, reflecting the hunting, grazing, villages, wars, dances and other contents of ancestors in Cangyuan cliff painting area. The characteristics of Wa music are mainly primitive, simple, beautiful, healthy, unique with its simple tone and rough style. The songs are all folk songs. The Wa nationality’s dance has a wide range of themes, simple and straightforward, passionate and unrestrained. Wooden drum dance and hair swing dance shows the profound connotation and rich national characteristics of Wa culture, and is famous at home and abroad

Cultural Heritages of Wa Ethnic Minority in Yunnan

Intangible Cultural Heritages of Wa in Yunnan

Inheritors of Wa’s Intangible Cultural Heritages in Yunnan

Festivals of Wa Ethnic Minority in Yunnan

See more about Festivals of Wa Ethnic Minority.